Soup is an autumn and winter staple for very good reasons. It’s warm, comforting, packed with nutrients, and — depending on the soup — can help balance out some rich, heavy holiday foods. According to dieticians, soup can even help you lose weight. All you need to do is stick to these healthy habits:
1. Avoid cream-based soups.
A soup relies heavily on its base for flavor and texture. Creamy soups are delicious comfort foods but can contribute a lot of calories and saturated fat. That’s why it’s better to stick to lighter, broth-based soups instead.
If you still want the flavor and mouthfeel of a creamy soup, you can easily punch up a broth- or stock-based soup with the addition of a little dry roux. Roux is a staple in Cajun and Creole dishes and usually involves cooking flour in fat and using the finished paste as a thickener. A dry roux involves toasting flour in a pan or oven and can still make soups and stews taste rich without the addition of extra fat.
2. Stick to low sodium stock or broth.
While sodium won’t make you gain fat, it can make you retain water when consumed in excess. It’s also not great for people with sodium-sensitive blood pressure or kidney problems. Unfortunately, a lot of stocks and broths are very high in salt. When you use them in a soup and then add other ingredients, that sodium count just keeps climbing. If you must use prepared broth or stock, stick to low sodium or no salt added varieties.
3. Make your own stocks and broths.
Making your own bases is even better than buying low sodium stock or broth. This gives you full control over what goes into the finished product. Best of all, you can make a delicious broth from nothing more than table scraps. Save the trimmed-off ends of celery, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and herbs for vegetable broth, or bones for stock. Add them to a pot of water, boil, and strain the finished broth or stock into jars, storage containers, or silicone ice cube trays.
4. Avoid puréed soups.
A tomato bisque can be absolutely lovely on a chilly day, but it can also feel a little lacking. There’s a psychological reason behind this: Chewing helps provide a degree of satiety. Chewing tells your body that you’re eating food, and bulkier soup ingredients take up more space in your stomach. It’s the same reason why you can feel full after eating three hundred calories’ worth of salad, but not after drinking the same calories’ worth of soda.
5. Add beans.
Beans are a wonderful addition to soup. They’re hearty, filling, and packed with protein, fiber, and complex carbs. Best of all, research indicates that some beans may actually aid weight loss. One 2020 study found that obese subjects who consumed white bean extract lost more weight over a 35-day period than those in a control group. Many beans are also high in potassium, which can help balance out some of the sodium content of many soups.
6. Avoid refined carbs.
We’re looking at you, pasta, and white rice. While these ingredients are an essential component for some dishes, they’re not really necessary for soups. Instead, use whole grain pasta or brown rice. They’re more filling and have a lower glycemic load than their refined counterparts. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the glycemic index of cooked brown rice is 68, compared to white rice’s 73. It’s not a huge difference, but it does show that whole grains have a lower impact on blood sugar. If you cook starchy foods, allow them to cool, and then reheat them before eating, some of the starch converts to resistant starch. This is harder to digest than regular starch, further lowering the glycemic load.
If you can pass up the addition of pasta and rice to soup, it’s best to do so. If not, choose whole-grain alternatives, and chill and reheat them before eating.
7. Eat soup often.
Soup is a great way to introduce variety into your diet. Studies have drawn a correlation between the frequency with which people eat soup, and overall dietary quality. Make your own bases, load them with veggies, lean meat, and beans, and enjoy the benefits. If you swap soup in for richer, higher-calorie meals, even better.
Cold weather is soup weather, and there’s no time like the present to introduce more delicious soups into your life. They’re easy to make and, with just a little extra effort, are an excellent tool to promote weight loss.